Heavy fighting erupted this morning between Ziniani militias led by Usama Ajwaily and militias from the border town of Zuwarah over control of Ras Ajdair border crossing and Abu Kammash oil terminal.
It was understood that a large force from Zintan was deployed yesterday to al-A’ssah ahead of today’s offensive on Abu kammash which sources said the Zintanis have briefly captured it before being forced to retreat following a counteroffensive by Zuwarah forces. Usama Ajwaily told 218-TV earlier today that the attack was based on orders from Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and that it aims to stop criminal activities on the coast road between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.
Three fighters were reportedly killed in the clashes, one from Ajwaily forces and two from Zuwarah. The violence is likely to escalate after forces from towns dominated by Libya’s Berber minority were said to be on their way to back the Berbers of Zuwarah. If true, this would be a dangerous development which could turn the violence into an ethnic war between Berber towns such as Kabao, Yefren, Jadu, Nalut and Zuwarah against their Arab neighbours led by Zintan. It was understood that Ajwaily's forces already include fighters from Arab towns near Zuwarah such as Al-A’ssah, Riqdalin, Aljmail and Zelten.
There have been rumours over the last few months that Ajwaily - commander of both ‘the military council of Zintan revolutionaries’ and GNA's ‘western military zone’ - had been plotting an offensive to capture Ras Ajdair. In November we quoted unnamed sources as saying that “Zintan has done a deal with GNA’s PM Fayez Serraj to neutralize the pro-Gaddafi forces in Wearshafana in exchange for granting them control over the coast road between Tripoli and the Tunisian border”.
The video below was circulated on Facebook today purporting to show Zuwarah militiamen boasting about seizing a tank from Ajwaily forces.
Berber militias from Zuwarah who have been controlling Ras Ajdair since 2011 are often accused of corruption for their alleged involvement in the smuggling of subsidized fuel and goods to neighbouring Tunisia. Reports in the Tunisian media today said the crossing has been closed due to the ongoing violence on Libyan side. It is worth noting that both warring parties, the Zuwarans and the Zintanis, are on the payroll of GNA’s defence and interior ministries.